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Parliamentary News from Joseph Mooney MP - April 2022

April 30, 2022 Share

It has been a busy month of activities and public holidays. We celebrated Easter, ANZAC Day and Ramadan in April, and soon we will be celebrating the new public holiday Matariki in June.

Mother's Day is just around the corner and I hope your family has something special planned for the wonder women in your lives!

This year, I attended the Waikaka and Drummond ANZAC services. They were both very special occasions, and hopefully, you too were able to join one of the many commemorations in honour of those who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

I hosted Leader Christopher Luxon in the electorate where we spent the day talking to local businesses who say they have been doing it tough.

I also hosted Chris Bishop MP at meetings with housing developers where we talked about the increasing costs of housing and rental costs. The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust is doing great work with its housing developments in the district to support low-income families in housing. 

The cost of living is soaring, and families and businesses feel the pinch of the rising cost of basics in life, like food and fuel.  

In the lead up to Budget Day on 19 May, we are preparing to scrutinise the Government's Budget 2022/23 to ensure that they have delivered what they said they would and to hear about their plans for the upcoming fiscal year with our hard-earned taxes. 

Leader Christopher Luxon has given his pre-budget speech and you can watch it here

I'm planning post budget meetings in Queenstown and Gore in May too. Details of how you can register your attendance can be found on my website.


Three Waters and co-governance

The Government has announced that they will forge ahead with their flawed Three Waters reform programme despite most councils not supporting their centralisation and divisive co-governance agenda.    

New Zealand is a modern, multicultural society built on proud bicultural foundations. The National Party believes in inclusiveness, unity and equality for all New Zealanders – and equality for all citizens under the law.

However, the Labour Government has not been clear on what it means by ‘co-governance’.  National does not support the co-governance of public services.

Past co-governance arrangements that were made in the context of Treaty settlements have worked well. These were bounded to the management of natural resources, like rivers, by iwi working closely with local or central government. This is consistent with National’s strong view that devolution and localism work better than centralisation and bureaucracy.

We should also be celebrating the successes that the Māori economy has already achieved. Statistics reveal that as of 2018, Māori own a significant proportion of assets in the primary sectors - 50% of the fishing quota, 40% of forestry, 30% in lamb production, 30% in sheep and beef production and 10% in dairy production.

Māori-owned kiwifruit orchards also produce 13.9 million trays of gold and green fruit each year or about 10% of New Zealand's total kiwifruit exports. Māori own nearly 1,200 hectares of land devoted to kiwifruit.

2020 research report suggests that while Māori share of land in horticulture is relatively small at 5%, Māori horticulture has grown 300% since 2006. This growth is set to continue and may double in size in as little as 10 years.

In 2018, Māori also owned 5.7% of the land (1.5 million hectares and mainly freehold) of which approximately 400,000ha is farm land, with more than half used for sheep, beef and dairy farming and less than 1 per cent is dedicated to horticulture. 


Farmers facing challenging times

At our two farm Woolshed meetings in Balfour and Waimumu, farmers raised concerns around water, the current drought conditions and the burdensome regulatory reform they are facing all at the same time.

When I met with Thriving Southland and Land and Water Science we talked about the merits of interlinking Government policies for soil, water, biodiversity, and carbon.   

NZ is geologically variable and the Government's blanket policy approach is rather ineffective as a result. With 32 water catchment groups in the region, farmers say the lack of reliable data and information on pathways for economic and environmental sustainability creates real issues for informed decision-making on-farm.


Rural health crisis

Rural health is increasingly under the spotlight. Our health services are stretched, especially rural health, and we need to spare a thought for our GPs and nurses that have seen increased workloads as COVID spreads through our communities. 

While hospitals too, deal with exploding case numbers, elective and other services mustn't suffer. Access to colonoscopy, gynaecological and orthopaedic services, for example, remains an issue for many in our electorate.

The loss of Te Anau's only midwife is the tip of the iceberg of the midwifery crisis being felt across the Southland and Central Otago regions.   Since the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre in 2018, the problem has extended wider and poses a great risk to new mums and their babies. I have actively raised these issues with Ministers responsible for Health, Immigration and COVID-19 Response over a prolonged period.

A National government will fund a minimum of a three day stay in post-natal care for mothers and their babies and address pay claims by independent midwives. We understand the challenges of remote and rural communities.

On the flip side, while the Government dithers with government-funded cancer services, the Southland Charity Hospital building nearing completion is exciting news!

I'm in regular contact with Missy Vining and her team for updates on their cause on behalf of the community. Its success highlights the importance of addressing the issue of the lack of Government funding for cancer patients.

Mental health

Mental health and well-being too, especially for our youth, are big issues in our communities. I'm aware of a survey circulating in Te Anau looking into the mental health of rural young men, and the issue is widespread.

Considering the Government's $1.9 billion spend in this area, it is only fitting that the Auditor-General has announced that he will be investigating the "effectiveness of mental health and addiction services for young people as a group with an increasing need for mental health support".


Postal services found lacking in Queenstown

Due to outdated legislative instruments, some areas in Queenstown are not receiving postal services either. Residents of Hanley's Farm have contacted me with concerns about New Zealand Post's failure to deliver mail in their area.

They say negotiations with the state-owned enterprise New Zealand Post have reached a stalemate.  Ministers responsible for NZ Post must front and confirm what they intend to do to ensure NZ Post maintains their minimum service obligations for the delivery of postal services in Hanley's Farm as per the postal deed.  Read my press release on this issue here.

Finally, I've written to several Ministers this month, asking questions and seeking answers to the problems our communities face. I'll be feeding back their responses in the coming weeks.

You can stay up to date with my activities by signing up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  

My team and I are here to assist you in any way we can. You can reach us here. 

Kind regards,

Joseph Mooney
http://josephmooney.national.org.nz/

 

 

 



 

Loss of Te Anau's only midwife tip of iceberg in Southland and Central Otago midwifery crisis

April 23, 2022 Share

The loss of Te Anau's only midwife is the tip of the iceberg of the midwifery crisis being felt across the Southland and Central Otago regions.

An increasing number of midwives are leaving the profession due to feeling undervalued, overworked, and having ongoing questions around funding structures. Maternity staff shortage is an ongoing issue that I have actively raised with Ministers responsible for Health, Immigration and COVID-19 Response over a prolonged period.

In June 2021, I wrote to the Minister for Health, Andrew Little, requesting him to take urgent action to improve access to maternity services for women and their babies in Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, Northern Southland, and Fiordland areas.

My concerns relate to the significant shortage of midwives in the region, the wellbeing of those employed in the health workforce, and the significant risks the combined factors pose to the safety of mothers and their babies.

When the Lumsden Maternity Centre closed in 2018, the Government said they would ensure expectant mothers would still have access to good primary and secondary health care services.

Their solution since has been to fly mothers needing critical care to hospitals in other cities just to find that some hospitals, at times, did not have enough medical staff or hospital beds to accept the incoming patients.

If flying isn’t a viable option, mothers and babies face long trips via ambulance.

Anyone who lives in Southland will be able to testify to the region's at times treacherous road infrastructure in winter and especially if combined with extreme weather challenges.

In my letter to the Minister, I used the example of an expectant mother who, unable to be admitted to Dunedin and Invercargill, was referred to Timaru Hospital. In an already potentially fatal situation, Timaru could not be accessed by helicopter due to weather, which meant a four-hour trip by ambulance.

I also raised issues about the wellbeing of our midwives and maternity nurses. Health care worker shortages have contributed to their problems due to intensifying workloads and unsustainable work hours.

The lack of evidence-based immigration policy has contributed to the crisis we face. According to answers to Parliamentary written questions by Ministers, midwifery is not currently considered a long-term skill shortage.

In the Minister's response to me in December 2021, he acknowledged that New Zealand is experiencing a shortage of midwives.

He said 'the Government recognised the importance of midwives and have made it a top priority to bolster the midwife workforce’.

He quoted Budgets 2020 and 2021 provisions that allocated $242m over four years for maternity services. The $35m Maternity Action Plan and 2021 Notice would ‘compensate midwives working in the more remote parts of New Zealand’.

Associate Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Ayesha Verrall also responded by outlining $5m in funding for clinical coaches at District Health Boards to improve midwives' working conditions.

In a press release on 14 July 2021, the Associate Minister declared, "To support them, clinical coaches will stand shoulder to shoulder with midwives on the maternity wards, caring for pregnant and birthing women's health and medical needs."

However, answers to Parliamentary questions to colleague Hon Louise Upston, Opposition Spokesperson for Social Development and Employment, suggest that the Minister could not tell how many midwives were supported to date by clinical coaches and how much of the money had already been spent.

She said that the Ministry of Health did not 'currently hold the data' nor would it be available for some 18 months.

In the meantime, while the South Canterbury District Health Board (SDHB) has echoed my concerns around midwife shortages, the DHB continues to offer fewer primary and secondary maternity services and facilities per head of population than many other district health board catchments.

SDHB has been given funding to support rural midwives, and I intend to get answers about where and how that money was spent.

With the Government steaming ahead with its centralised health restructuring efforts and using money from the maternity action plan funding that could instead be used to improve midwifery conditions, it comes at the expense of mothers and their babies in our Southland and Central Otago regions.

This Government has failed to recognise midwives' vital role in supporting mothers and their babies.

Our women and their babies deserve the same access to maternity services as other Kiwi women, and all children across the country deserve the best possible start in life.

A National government will fund a minimum of a three day stay in post-natal care for mothers and their babies and address pay claims by independent midwives. We understand the challenges of remote and rural communities. We have a track record of supporting birthing units where the evidence is clear.

In the meantime, it's time for the Ministers to act now, not wait 18 months for data that will tell them that mothers and their babies in our regions need care now.

Notes to editor:
- Copies of Joseph Mooney letters to the Ministers and their responses
- Links to Parliamentary Written Questions and their responses:

  • Midwifery clinical coaching fund - https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/order-paper-questions/written-questions/document/WQ_04384_2022/4384-2022-hon-louise-upston-to-the-associate-minister
  • Notice 21 fund rural categories - https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/order-paper-questions/written-questions/document/WQ_04357_2022/4357-2022-hon-louise-upston-to-the-associate-minister
  • https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/order-paper-questions/written-questions/document/WQ_04370_2022/4370-2022-hon-louise-upston-to-the-minister-of-immigration

 



Ministers must front on Queenstown postal service delivery failures

April 12, 2022 Share

The Government's postal deed of understanding with New Zealand Post has not kept up to date with residential growth in areas of Queenstown, resulting in residents not receiving the mail delivery service they are entitled to, says National's MP for Southland, Joseph Mooney.

"Residents of Hanley's Farm have contacted me with concerns about New Zealand Post's failure to deliver mail in their area. They say negotiations with the state-owned enterprise New Zealand Post have reached a stalemate.

"It is not good enough to say that people aren't writing enough letters to justify service delivery, and we need the Government to tell us what they intend to do about it," Mr Mooney says.

"Hanley's Point is a residential area with over 2,000 houses, so it's unclear how New Zealand Post can justify a decision not to deliver mail there."

Mr Mooney says the organisation has not engaged in good faith about the ongoing issue.

"When I first looked into this issue in 2021, it was my understanding that service delivery decisions were based on accessibility for New Zealand Post vehicles to the area, amongst others.

“Other 'viable options' were being explored to ensure the residents in those areas received an acceptable level of service. One of the temporary solutions was PO Boxes in Wakatipu Box Lobby and Queenstown Box Lobby being made available to residents, a far drive for some.

"Nothing has been done since and this is not good enough," says Mr Mooney.

"It is part of a trend we are seeing under this Labour Government with government departments failing communities with inadequate and outdated service delivery plans.

“As households in affected areas are currently being surveyed with the results due later this month, I intend to meet with the community to discuss the results and next steps.

"I have asked the Ministers in charge of State-Owned Enterprises and their operations, David Clarke and Megan Woods, to confirm what they intend to do to ensure New Zealand Post maintains its minimum service obligations for the delivery of postal services to Hanley's Farm as per the postal deed of understanding with the Government.

“This deed guarantees a commitment by New Zealand Post to add new delivery points upon request, subject to due diligence work being carried out,” he says.

"I would also like to know what the outcome was of the planned review of the deed in March 2021 and whether there was any public consultation about it."

ENDS

 

Government ignoring democratic process in Three Waters steamroll

October 27, 2021 Share

The Government’s decision to push through legislation so it can steamroll ahead with its Three Waters Reforms shows a complete disregard for the voices of New Zealanders and due democratic process, MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says.

“It is extraordinary to see the Labour Government push through legislation to allow the establishment of four entities which will strip councils of their ownership and control of local water assets.”

“This is an asset grab and a clear case of the Government again doing whatever it wants regardless of how strongly New Zealanders object to their overwhelming desire for centralisation.”

Read more

Mooney has first Member's Bill drawn

September 24, 2021 Share

A bill to strengthen the protection of Māori land and stem fragmentation has today been drawn from the ballot, MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says.

“There are more than 27,000 blocks of Māori land under the present Te Ture Whenua Māori Act comprising of 1.4 million hectares, about 5 per cent of the total land mass of New Zealand.

“Large tracts of Māori land are under-performing for owners, largely due to constraints stemming from the current legislation. Fragmentation is getting worse, not better, and there are still thousands of owners who remain disconnected from their land.

“This law change seeks to improve the performance and productivity of Māori land, which will provide millions of dollars for the economic and cultural benefit of owners.

“The right of Māori land owners to retain, control, occupy and develop their whenua themselves as a taonga tuku iho for the benefit of present and future generation will be protected.

“The legislation is based on the fundamental principles that Māori land endures as taonga tuku iho by virtue of whakapapa, that tikanga Māori is central to matters involving Māori land, and that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is central to the application of laws affecting Māori land.

“Owners will finally be able to set rules making it harder to dispose of Māori land and will be able to design their own governance arrangements. The law will recognise the mana of decision making sits with the owners, not with the court.

“It’s time Māori are trusted to know what’s best for themselves.”

 

Watch the drawing of Mooney's member's bill here:

https://fb.watch/8cZdn4uJ0t/

Lakes Weekly Bulletin Column - September

September 14, 2021 Share

Check out my latest column in both the Lakes Weekly Bulletin - published September 13.

 

Outstanding is the only way to describe the Queenstown community’s reaction to New Zealand’s recent Delta outbreak.

After an incredibly trying 18 months, our town was again asked to make huge sacrifices for the safety of not only our own region, but the whole of New Zealand.
In typical Queenstown style, our residents rallied together to do what was needed.

Read more

Government must support Central Otago and Te Anau businesses

September 10, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says the Government must act urgently to support struggling Queenstown businesses as well as those across Central Otago and in Te Anau.

“COVID has had a devastating effect on the Queenstown economy, which has been pushed to another extreme by the recent shutdown of businesses during Alert Levels 3 and 4.”

“The results of the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce’s recent survey should send a clear message to the Government – Queenstown businesses need support now.”

“For 90% of businesses to report they’ve lost turnover of up to $100,000 per week during Level 4 and for 25% to report they do not expect they will recover from the effects of the recent lockdown shows how dire the situation is here.”

“It should also provide the Government with all of the prompting it needs to take urgent action.”

Mooney says the Government cannot keep ignoring the pleas of the business communities of Central Otago and Te Anau.

“Businesses in Central Otago and Te Anau have been in a fight for their survival for 18 months, the Government simply cannot ignore them any longer.”

Mooney says the Government’s response to the impacts of COVID19 on Central Otago and Fiordland’s economies so far have failed to acknowledge the extraordinary circumstances their towns have faced during the pandemic.

“The contributions of small and medium sized businesses have underpinned the incredible contribution of these regions to New Zealand’s visitor numbers and the New Zealand economy.”

“For decades these regions have made incredible contributions to New Zealand’s economy and international reputation.”

“The safety of our nation had to come first and regions like Queenstown and Te Anau took what I would describe as the biggest hits of any in New Zealand.”

“It’s time to properly support those who have sacrificed their livelihoods for this country.”

“The bottom line is small to medium businesses cannot keep paying for fixed costs while shut down or operating well below capacity, like they are in Level 2-D.”

“The Government’s offers of support fail to recognise the impact that sustaining those fixed costs are having on these businesses.”

“It’s time the Government recognised what a unique position areas like Central Otago and Te Anau are in.”

Mooney says a meaningful support package for businesses across Central Otago and Te Anau must be offered as soon as possible.

Lack of ventilators left Otago and Southland unprepared for Delta

September 10, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says the Minister of Health must ensure Southland and Otago are prepared for the possibility of a community outbreak of Covid-19 following two lucky escapes.

After making extensive enquiries about the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) catchment’s readiness to respond to a community outbreak, Mooney was extremely disappointed when Health Minister Andrew Little told him prior to the recent Level 4 Lockdown that SDHB hospitals had access to just 20 ventilators.

What was even more concerning was that the Ministry of Health didn’t know which hospitals had each of the ventilators.

“Kiwis watched as the Delta variant spread rapidly across Australia,” Mooney says.
“Southland Hospital was pushed to the brink by the intensive care of just two sailors with Covid at the beginning of August.”

“It is incredibly disappointing that despite those warning signs, the Ministry of Health didn’t even know where our region’s ventilators were.”

“As it turned out, there were just 20 of them to cover the SDHB’s massive catchment area with a population of around 350,000 people.”

“This is an extraordinary failure of governance.”

“Astonishingly, little had changed in the 18 months since last year’s Level 4 Lockdown.’

“Our communities have made incredible sacrifices to keep COVID out through last year’s lockdown periods.”

“That was necessary because our health system did not have the resources to cope and we all accepted that.”

“However the failure to stock southern hospitals with more ventilators in the 18 months that followed is a case of negligence.”

“There is no excuse for the Ministry of Health not to have been working with the SDHB to properly stock its hospitals with a critical tool that doctors and nurses need to use to care for seriously ill Covid patients.”

“We weren’t prepared for the last year’s nationwide lockdown, but there is no good reason for being so unprepared for the lockdown this August.”

Minister Little has revealed in a reply to a recent Parliamentary Written Question that the SDBH has now increased its stock of ventilators since Mooney first starting asking questions.

The SDHB now has 47 ventilators, with 38 in Dunedin ICU, 8 in Southland ICU and one in a fixed-wing aircraft.

Mooney says he is pleased to see an increase in the number of ventilators since he first started asking questions and that the Minister and the Ministry of Health now knows where the ventilators are.

However, Mooney would like to see a bigger commitment made to prepare the southern region adequately for the possibility of any future community outbreak.

That means addressing serious staffing shortfalls, as well as increasing ventilator stocks further and having the necessary equipment and supplies in SDHB hospitals.

“Our region desperately needs more doctors and nurses, we have seriously overworked staff and we have migrant staff who have been separated from their children for over 18 months because there is no space for them in MIQ.”

“The Government needs to do everything it can to look after the doctors and nurses in New Zealand, as well as making sure we can get as many as possible through our border to ensure our health system is adequately staffed in the event of another outbreak.”

Mooney says he would like to thank all healthcare workers in the southern region for working so hard and diligently to care for our community through this challenging time.

Central Otago News & Ensign Columns - September

September 09, 2021 Share

Check out my recent columns in both the Central Otago News and The Ensign.

 

Central Otago News column - published September 9.


Health Of River Is Vital

 

Cool heads and a common›sense approach must prevail as the Central Otago region faces a wave of issues relating to water.

Late last month I supported the decision of the majority of ORC councillors who voted to ask for more scientific information to be tabled before they decide on minimum flows for the Manuherikia River.

Read more

Specialist wait times put Children’s futures at risk

September 08, 2021 Share

A paediatric orthopaedic patient waiting more than 520 days for an appointment with a Southern District Health Board (SDHB) specialist is completely unacceptable, MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says.

“Children’s bodies are developing and constantly changing, so to have a child waiting nearly 18 months to see a specialist is deeply concerning,” Mr Mooney says.

“This shouldn’t be how we treat our young people in this region.”

In a response to a Parliamentary Written Question, Minister of Health Andrew Little advised Mr Mooney that as at August 16 2021, there were 122 patients under-16 waiting for a first appointment to see a SDHB orthopaedic specialist.

Of those on the waitlist, one patient had been waiting 521 days.

“The Southern DHB website lists 18 orthopaedic surgeons working at either Southland or Dunedin hospitals.”

“We have seen the issues they have had keeping up with adult orthopaedic lists, the question now must be asked – how much of an effect has this had on children’s orthopaedic services?”

“If paediatric orthopaedic issues in children are not addressed it can leave them with problems that they must face their entire adult lives.”

“We need to do everything we can to avoid that from happening.”

“The positive flow on effect of early treatment is that these patients will require less specialist orthopaedic care in the future.”

Mr Mooney says that the Ministry of Health and the SDHB must improve their oversight of paediatric orthopaedic surgery waiting lists in the south to ensure appropriate resourcing is available to avoid more young people facing unacceptable wait times.

“The orthopaedic surgeons can only do so much and the last thing they would want is being in a position where they cannot assist patients whose problems, if not treated now, could cause life-long issues.”

“SDHB management are being forced to move from crisis to crisis without addressing some of the critical health needs of the Southern population.”

Mooney has been vocal on a number of healthcare issues in Otago and Southland and has lobbied for marked improvements in areas such as cancer treatment and maternity services.

The MP says the Minister of Health’s oversight of health services in the region hasn’t been up to scratch and it is having a disturbing effect on the lives of his constituents.

“Labour did away with National Health Targets which took away accountability and reporting on performance.”

“The result has been patients being left behind. Information is power, and you can’t improve what you don’t track and measure.”

Mooney says the proposed restructure of the New Zealand health system by the Government could make more patients vulnerable as putting almost $500 million into paying bureaucrats to create what could be another flawed system won’t result in more hospital beds, more health staff, and an expansion of services in key areas.